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General Motors Corp. v. Sanchez
Citation:997 S.W.2d 584 (Tex. 1999)
Lee Sanchez, Jr. died as a result of an accident in March, 1993. There were no witnesses; he was last seen leaving his home to feed a pen of heifers one evening and was found the next morning pinned to an open corral gate by his truck. It is believed that Sanchez drove his truck to the corral, got out to open the gate and shifted the 1990 Chevy pickup into what he thought was Park position, but was actually an intermediate “perched” position between Park and Reverse. This position is called “hydraulic neutral.” The gear shift likely slipped from this perched position into Reverse. As the truck rolled backwards, it pinned Sanchez between the truck and open corral gate. He suffered a broken arm and damaged knee. He also suffered a severe laceration in his right upper arm, which severed an artery and bled out in 45-75 minutes, causing his death.
At trial, plaintiffs and defendant agreed that the accident was likely caused by a mis-shift from Park to Neutral. They further agree that all transmissions can mis-shift, that no design eliminates the possibility, and that a mis-shift is dangerous.
Plaintiffs presented evidence through an expert witness, Simon Tamny, who testified about the specific transmission in Sanchez’s truck, and the particular risks of GM’s gear shift design. He testified that there are alternative designs that can reduce the likelihood of mishifting, including moving the peak between park and neutral approximately 2 degrees, moving the ratchet approximately 3 degrees, and sharpening the peak.
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